More Risso’s Hunted/ Killed

The day started off the same as all days in Taiji. Up at 4:30 a.m., we went to the harbor to see if the boats would go out. And unfortunately they did — the hunt for dolphins would be taking place today. As they were leaving, we could hear one of the fishermen talking through the loudspeaker. This raised a red flag, thinking that other fishermen had radioed information to the dolphin hunters about dolphins in the area.

As every day, the next part of our day consisted of heading up to the lookout point to watch for the boats. Sure enough, it wasn’t long until a formation was spotted. They were moving fast, more so than the usual drives. My fellow Cove Monitor, Vicki and I had to move quickly to the seawall, where one can watch the drive before they reach the Cove. Vicki went down to the Cove while I remained at the seawall. There wasn’t much banging on the banger poles as the dolphins seemed to be quickly moving along the path towards the Cove. It almost seemed as if they knew exactly where they were going, as if they had been there before.

Risso's

Risso’s in the Cove Photo Courtesy: DolphinProject.net

I started to walk towards the Cove. Immediately upon arriving there, I saw a small group of dolphins swim across the nets into the shallows of the Cove! They were swimming so fast. I’ve witnessed many drives but I have never seen anything like this. One stranded on the rocks, two more were right up by the sandy beach. I could see the panic in their eyes. Another two were near the Coast Guard boat, there to protect the dolphin hunters. It was unbelievable. The dolphins were so close, I could have touched them. But, of course, the area was surrounded by police and to touch them or interfere in any way would have landed me in a Japanese prison.

I was overcome with a horrible feeling of hopelessness as I watched the trapped dolphins struggle. Soon came the fishermen in their skiffs, shouting instructions to each other while trying to force the terrified dolphins back to the killing cove. I’d never been so close to the fishermen before.

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Risso’s in the Cove Photo Courtesy: DolphinProject.net

The fishermen brought two divers over to the lone Risso’s that had stranded on the rocks. My heart broke as I watched them pull the dolphin off the rocks and escort it to it’s death. Soon, all the remaining dolphins were forced into the killing cove where they would meet the same fate.

Risso's in the Cove Photo Courtesy: DolphinProject.net

Risso’s in the Cove
Photo Courtesy: DolphinProject.net

The first drive was done by about half of the banger boats. I had a bad feeling something else was going on. Shortly after the first group of Risso’s had been herded into the killing cove, I heard that all too familiar banging sound in the distance. Moments later, I could see the boats approaching with another group of dolphins – another pod of Risso’s. I’m not sure if they were part of one pod that had split or if there were two separate pods. All the Risso’s dolphins were killed this day, both large and small. I spotted at least one mother and calf in the group. There might have been more.

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Risso’s in the Cove Photo Courtesy: DolphinProject.net

Vicki and I were heartbroken. We both saw terror and panic in the dolphins’ eyes. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings of helplessness and sadness we experienced. We couldn’t help but wonder if, perhaps, these dolphins had been in the Cove before and had witnessed their family being killed, before being driven back to sea. They seemed to know what awaited them in the killing cove and although they did attempt to bolt, they were unfortunately trapped by the shores of the Cove. This day will be etched in our memories forever.

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About Cynthia Fernandez

I was raised to love and respect the ocean and all the animals that live in it. As a teacher, about five years ago, I was telling my students that I would be gone from school for a week as I was taking a trip to Baja California to see whales and dolphins. I was totally shocked by their responses. “Are you going to ride a dolphin?” That question was asked in each and every class. It was then that the light bulb went on in my head. These kids had been miseducated into thinking that dolphins were here for our entertainment. That very day, I decided to do my part in re-educating. My hope was to impart that no animals, including dolphins, were here to entertain us. I decided to focus on dolphins since dolphins and whales had always been my passion.

I had been an activist at a young age. When I found out about the tuna industry killing dolphins as they captured the fish, I made fliers and stood outside grocery stores, asking people not to buy tuna. I knew then, as a child, that killing dolphins was wrong. As an adult, after watching “The Cove," I was inspired to actively do my part to help end captivity and the dolphin slaughters in Taiii, Japan. Realizing that the captive trade is undeniably linked to the dolphin drives, I decided to create presentations for kids that show what amazing animals dolphins were and how they suffered in captivity. I created a three-part presentation for kids that focuses on the captivity issue, presenting information in such a way as to let them decide for themselves how they felt about captivity. As a Cove Monitor, I have traveled to Taiji for the past four years to see the capture process and slaughters first hand. This has served as an invaluable experience for my presentations, as I am able to show students my own photos and videos as well as share my stories from Taiji.

I’ve been amazed by the results. Kids totally get it. They simply need information presented to them and an opportunity to think about and discuss the issue. After presenting to my own students and hearing them talk about it, I decided to visit other schools. I’ve been doing presentations for five years now and have spoken to kids ranging from 3rd grade through seniors in high school.

I feel the presentations have been very successful. Many kids have told me they would never go to a dolphin show or swim with captive dolphins. Many have told me they wanted to help dolphins, and several have gotten actively involved and done amazing things. I’ve had students attend protests, present a petition to the Japanese Embassy and do presentations for younger students.

I strongly believe in the power of education. Kids are the ones who will say “no” to captivity and make positive changes. I encourage everyone to bring this issue into the classroom, and I am available to help anyone who wants to get involved. Together, we can bring an end to the captivity of dolphins and help bring an end to the dolphin slaughters in Taiji.

Educational Outreach / Dolphin Project Cove Monitor

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Educational Outreach / Dolphin Project Cove Monitor

Author: Cynthia Fernandez
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